This ride report is a bit of a strange one. While the Butler County Gravel Days event occurred over two days, I ended writing 11,000 words detailing both the actual riding and weekend's festivities. If you are only interested in the riding, you'll want to read Parts I, II, and V. If you are at all interested in the events that took place during the non-riding portions, then you'll want to read the entire thing. These are the ramblings of a writer/rider (wrider?) who has been cooped up for too long. You have been warned. Prologue: It’s been ten months since I finished the Trans America Trail. Unfortunately, that was the last bit of meaningful riding I did in 2020. While I took the WR250r out a few times locally, I never did anything that I felt was worthy of a ride report. I pondered doing a “Riding in the Northeast” journal, a collection of experiences and essays akin to Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac, but that dream died when I shot the first ride in 4K and then couldn’t upload any of the pictures anywhere. While the riding has been poor, I have managed to keep myself busy by becoming a substitute teacher at a middle school. I make good money, and it’s been a good stopover while I waited for a more permanent job. And while I do find the work rewarding, being stuck inside a stuffy building for months on end with raucous preteens will do wonders to the psyche of an inexperienced teacher. I had to get out, I had to get back on the road again. So, we begin as all great motorcycle trips do: packing up my gear, driving to the airport, and boarding a plane bound for Wichita. Wait…what? Ok, maybe I need to provide a little more context. In February, I got this text from @overlander: “Mark your calendars now for May 1st and 2nd to attend the first ever Butler County Gravel Days dual sport event. Don’t miss it! I’ve got a bike you can ride if you fly in.” If you read my TAT ride report, you’ll remember how my busted radiator introduced us, leading to a celebratory dinner in Port Orford and a new friendship. When that text came across my desk, I was certainly intrigued and immediately wanted to go. The only downside was that I had no idea if I was actually going to be free on May 1st and 2nd. At that point in time, I had sent out close to a million job applications in hopes that someone would be desperate enough to hire me. Most of these applications fell on deaf ears, but a few had the courtesy to let me know that I wasn’t getting hired. But I was still holding out hope I would have gainful employment by then. I told Overlander, aka Lee, that I would be thrilled to come down, but that I wouldn’t know if I was able to until later. In March, I sort of got a job. I say “sort of” because I got hired for a position that still hasn’t opened yet. It’s the perfect scenario, really. There is none of the stress of the job hunt while having oodles of free time. The reps who hired me said that at the earliest, I wouldn’t be starting until late May, and if they did reach out when I was off traveling somewhere, they would wait. Perfect! I let Lee know that I would be coming and immediately booked a ticket to Wichita. My flight wasn’t exactly smooth. It had three stops, and not one time was I allowed to get off the plane. So instead of my normal layover routine of finding the nearest Chick-Fil-A and gorging myself on nuggets, I was forced to learn the terrible truth about just how well they clean airliners between flights. Flight #1 from Providence to Baltimore was the roughest flight I’ve been on in years. We had to have been lower than 5000ft when the turbulence started to set in. The woman to the right of me was terrified, holding her hand to her chest seemingly ever time I turned my head. Her daughter, however, was unphased, just calmly looking out the window as the plane bounced around. The man to the right of me was asleep and completely limp, his poor head rolling around with the airplane. Baltimore to St. Louis was a little better, but it too was plagued by turbulence. The last flight, St. Louis to Wichita, was also the easiest. The sun was beginning to slip below the horizon as I departed for the last time. While I technically have been to Kansas (I stopped in Elgin, Liberal, and Elkhart last summer), I didn’t know too much about the terrain besides the reputation of flatness. I refused to look up any pictures of the eastern countryside as I wanted my impressions to not be hampered by lofty expectations. The first thing that caught my eye was a plume of what looked to be dust. It wasn’t until I saw a second, larger, plume that I realized these were both (hopefully) controlled burns. My eyes began to dart around. I saw El Dorado Lake shimmering in the dying light. Gullies and flatlands crisscrossed the acreage. Lines of trees formed perfect, sunken squares of fields. I wish I could have taken a picture, but alas I was on the aisle seat. Curse these long legs of mine. As I approached Wichita, I began to see signs of civilization. The groupings of buildings began to get larger and larger until they formed the city. I landed a little before 8:00 pm and disembarked to a nearly empty airport. The only thing I really knew about Wichita was that Wichita St. University was there. A few years ago, I picked them to go all the way in the NCAA Tournament. They lost to Kentucky in the round of 32, but for some reason I became a fan. I still root for them today, after my Longhorns of course. That being said, I still don’t really know what this Wheatnado thing is supposed to be. I picked up my gear from the baggage carousel and met my ride outside. Lee could not make it to the airport and instead sent a friend of his, B, to retrieve me. It wasn’t long until my luggage was loaded in his car and we were on the road, heading east as the last bit of the Sun began to say goodnight. Our destination was Sugar Shane’s Café in Augusta, Kansas and the plan was to meet with the group there. Lee gave us a call to let us know that he arrived and would order for us. I put in for a Southwest Burger, though to be honest I would have eaten anything that was put in front of me. I was running off airplane snacks and that morning’s breakfast. We arrived at the restaurant; a beach-chic establishment nestled in the brick downtown of Augusta. The waiter led us to the outside dining area where we united with the rest of the group. I greeted Lee and then exchanged pleasantries with new faces. I learned I wasn’t the only Kansas newcomer, a man named Eric had arrived from Georgia a few hours before I did. Over dinner, I learned that Eric had never actually ridden a bike off road, but he did have years of street experience. I told him that I would be taking this weekend slow to shoot some pictures for this ride report and that I would be more than welcome to keep him company. Dinner was delicious. My burger came with sweet potato fries and I chose to wash it down with some good ol' sweet tea. My hunger prompted me to inhale the meal, resulting in a stomachache that lasted well into the night. After dinner, B drove me over to Lee’s house, where Eric and a few others would be spending the night. On the way, B took me down a road that he apparently had seen a cougar on a few weeks ago. I had no idea that cougars were ever in Kansas. He also informed me about an enormous coyote that had become somewhat of a local celebrity. I told my story of encountering a wolf/coyote hybrid in Vermont, and we wondered if his version was a hybrid as well. Someone had passed down this dirt road a few minutes before us and kicked up a fog. I silently pondered tomorrow’s visibility and wondered if I should be concerned for Eric. We arrived at Lee’s house first and hung out on the front step until they arrived. Lee showed up, brought us inside, and got everyone's sleeping arrangements situated. The last portion of the night was spent in the living room, where we told stories of racing, travels, and our own personal histories. Around midnight, everyone turned in. I changed into my pajamas, unfurled my sleeping bag, and hunkered down on my cot, hoping that my excitement wouldn’t overpower my desire for shuteye.